Several whales have been spotted in the western part of Long Island Sound in recent months, the first such sightings since 1993. Boaters have been startled by minke, humpback and beluga whales in the waters off Connecticut and New York State.
According to this article, experts believe the whales were attracted by a big increase in bait fish in the Sound, including menhaden, which are rich in omega-3 oils and calories. We figure that the whales decided to come to the East Coast to see Pope Francis. Whatever the reason, the whales have served as role models for some other hefty mammals.
The biggest news in science this week was the announcement of the discovery of a new human ancestor, Homo naledi. After anthropologists excavating in South Africa found an almost inaccessible cave which appeared to contain hominid remains, they recruited a team of the smallest, skinniest cavers they could find and sent them to explore it. What they found was astonishing – the skeletons of some 15 individuals of a human-like species with features unlike any seen before. This article in National Geographic gives many more details, with more sure to come as teams of researchers study the finds.
While our science kittehs applaud the discovery of new hoomins, they are slightly vexed that they were not allowed to join the team, given that they are experts in crawling through small tunnels and also highly skilled at guarding valuable stuff.
A map generally shows a bird’s eye view, but now a small Japanese city has pioneered a paradigm-changer, the cat’s eye view. The tourism board of Hiroshima prefecture has created an online map for cats — similar to Google Street View, but at a cat’s height instead of a car’s — of a commercial area in the city of Onomichi.
This article in Vox explains the features of the cat map, including cat locators and biographies of the neighborhood’s kitties. Needless to say, it appears vastly superior to a view from a bird, satellite or car. Two paws up.
This week, psychologist Brian Nosek and his colleagues from the Center for Open Science released the results of four years of work on a unique project. Since 2011, he and 270 other scientists in The Reproducibility Project have been attempting to replicate 100 previously published psychology studies. The results, published this week in Science, were worse than expected – just 36% of the replicated studies produced as strong a result as the original research.
That sounds pretty bad! But this article by Ed Yong in The Atlantic goes systematically through the issues around study design, publication and replicability and concludes that “failed replications don’t discredit the original studies, any more than successful ones enshrine them as truth.”
Most scientists agree that more efforts like the Reproducibility Project are essential to leading scientific research toward practices that produce more robust results. Luckily, research cats are generally amenable to repeating experiments over and over again, particularly if they involve can openers or pushing objects off tables.
Dr. Jennifer Gardy provided a step-by-step guide to making science out of cat poop on Twitter, which was subsequently catalogued by our own Michele Banks, guru of Science Cats and Science Scarves (yes, this is a subtle reference to Dr. Gardy wearing an Artologica scarf in the photo series – now rendered unsubtler).